So, you want to be a digital nomad?

Updated: Sep 5, 2018

Have you dreamed of traveling the world, seeing amazing places, partaking in fabulous cuisines, maybe just getting a few extra stamps in your passport book? Or, maybe you just want to be like Matt Foley and want to live in a van down by the river. For those of you that didn't get that reference, I invite you to watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xv2VIEY9-A8


Anyway, if you have dreams of roaming the countryside and you aren't independently wealthy, or you aren't in your retirement age, then you likely need to make money on the road. We'll discuss that topic in another post. However, what we are going to be addressing with this post, is how to stay connected in a digital world.


I'd first like to start off and talk to you a little about our setup. For those that might not know, we travel North America in an Open Range 3X 349RLS 5th Wheel. This has been our home on wheels for over a year now, and we had a different 5th wheel, prior to that. Our digital connection in both rigs is basically the same.

The first thing I'd like to discuss is the difference between wifi and cellular data. Wifi is a broadcast network that may or may not have a cost associated to using. Public wifi is often available at places like McDonald's, Starbucks and Lowe's Home Improvement. Being a public wifi means that you can connect to it, with usually some acceptance of their usage policy. This is a great low/no cost way of connecting to the internet, to send and receive emails, etc. I call it low cost, because even though they are free, you will likely end up sipping on a Iced Coffee, or grabbing a small snack while you sitting in their establishment. I will caution you though, that you likely won't be streaming you favorite episode of Game of Thrones, or uploading your latest YouTube video of your cat doing cute tricks.


If you need a better connection, something that is more stable, and something you can control the bandwidth and usage, then you might need to look into cellular technology. Here is the thing...not all carriers have great coverage. Also, I can tell you for a fact that a carrier that works well in one area, might not work well in a different area. This is why when you consider your cellular arsenal, you should consider using multiple sources of data. For us, we use T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon, all of which is unlimited data. This gets us almost guaranteed coverage, no matter where we are in the US. That said, sometimes you might need to amplify your connectivity, and you might also need to combine data sources into a single usable data stream within your own Wifi Network. To accomplish all of this, I present to you, our digitally connected set up.


The Roaming Home - Digital Connection

Let's start by talking about each of the components above. Here is a legend, for each of the components, to understand what each does and the role it plays in our set-up:

1 - WeBoost RV4G - this is our cellular amplifier. It boosts not only the receiving ability of the signal from the towers, but it also then creates a small area to amplify the broadcast range, inside of your rig. The current version of this booster is the WeBoost 4G-X RV

2 - Flag Pole Buddy - external antenna height matters. Therefore, you have a few options to raise your external antenna into the air. We chose to use the Flag Pole Buddy, because they are a great product, they collapse down easily and they are easy to set up, whenever you get to a new location

75-Ohm Omnidirectional Antenna

3 - 75-ohm Omnidirectional Antenna - This is the external antenna for the WeBoost RV4G. We changed from the included directional antenna and went with an omnidirectional antenna, as we want to be able to pick up data sources from multiple directions and at the same time. A directional antenna would really only work well, for the tower you were pointed at (like T-Mobile or AT&T or Verizon). If the stars were aligned, along with the towers from multiple carriers being aligned, then a directional would work for that scenario. However, for 5 years being on the road, we've not ever had that happen for us.

4 - WeBoost Directional Panel Antenna - This is the internal antenna, used to broadcast an amplified signal frequency inside your rig. We upgraded from a small desktop antenna to this, as we wanted to increase our broadcast range for the amplification.

5 - WifiRanger Go2 (which has now been replaced by the GoAC) - This is the heart of our internal network. This is a router that allows you to connect to various data sources and then broadcast them as your own wifi network. We'll talk more about this in a minute, as there is lot's to discuss

Verizon AC791

6 - These are our sources of data - we personally use the following devices. We have an AT&T Mobley, a Verizon AC791 Hotspot and multiple devices on T-Mobiles network that we can hotspot with (including one device with the One Plus International Plan, which gives you unlimited hot spotting)


ZTE Mobley

Above, I mentioned the WifiRanger Go2 being the heart of our system. The reason it is the heart of the system, is you can use it's internal antenna to connect to a wireless data source, like the AT&T Mobley (pictured here). You can then connect to a second device, like the Verizon AC791 via a USB tether. That means that you can effectively have two data sources being used at the same time. WifiRanger gives you lots of options on how you want to use those data sources. Common things are failover options which maximize bandwidth and throughput, or other options which allow for constant connection, in case a connection drops (like AT&T loses signal, and Verizon instantly turns on, to keep you connected). These features are great when you are connecting to work VPN, or on a video conference, and need constant uptime. However, if you are watching the latest episode of House of Cards or Game of Thrones, then you may choose to role the dice and push more bandwidth to a particular device on the network. There are countless options for how to configure, and I would recommend checking out their website to learn more at www.wifiranger.com


If you look at our setup above, we keep our data sources in the master bedroom, where we are amplifying the signal for those cellular devices, using the WeBoost and the internal antenna. Those devices are then broadcasting to the WifiRanger, which is in turn acting as the connection point for all computers and devices in our rig.


We prefer this set up, as it allows us maximum control over data usage and bandwidth by device. Let's assume you need to maintain a constant data connection to your companies or your clients VPN connection, but you also have kids who like to stream YouTube video's of their favorite gamer...you would want to give priority to the VPN connected device. Why? Well, if you can't work, you can't get paid. And, if you can't get paid, then you can't pay the cell bill. If you can't pay the cell phone bill, then your kids can't stream anymore. The WifiRanger allows you to establish things like bandwidth limitations and restrictions and device priority, giving you the best control over your data usage. Plus, it's easy to configure, so that makes for the best flexibility, as your needs change throughout the day.


We hope that you learned something with this post. We'd love to hear your feedback on it. If you have ideas for other topics that you'd like to have discussed in our blog, please share with us at theroaminghomeblog@gmail.com


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About Us

We are the Varner family, but we go by the alias of The Roaming Home.  Why?  Over 5 years ago, we decided to stop playing in the rat race, in exchange for traveling the US. 

 

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